An Ultra-Orthodox party has stirred controversy on social media after publishing an election campaign video on Tuesday night that compared Reform and Conservative converts to Judaism to dogs.
United Torah Judaism (UTJ) released the video as a response to a High Court of Justice ruling that recognizes those who have converted to Judaism through Reform or Conservative conversions in Israel as Jewish by the state and would allow them to acquire Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return.
The video opens with a snippet from an old news story covering the "Bark Mitzvah" phenomenon, in which members of more liberal Jewish denominations hold bar mitzvah ceremonies for their pet animals, mainly dogs.
The video continues with a series of photos featuring dogs wearing Jewish skullcaps on their heads, some wrapped in a prayer shawl and tefillin, holding holy books, wearing a Star of David pendant or boasting curled sidelocks.
As the images are paraded on the screen, a narrator tells the viewers, “in the High Court of Justice, this is a Jew”, while joking about one dog, “his grandfather was a rabbi, of course, he is Jewish!”
The video ended with the message that only the UTJ party “will protect your Judaism, that of your children, and your grandchildren”, followed by the campaign slogan: “First of all the Jews.”
Opposition leader Yair Lapid criticized the video and recalled that his father, Tommy, a Holocaust survivor from Hungary, once told him that during World War II there was a big sign on the parliament building in Budapest declaring, “No entry for Jews and dogs.”
Lapid wrote on Twitter that “anti-Semites in every generation always compare Jews to dogs. Now UJT has joined them. Disgusting.”
Labor Party's number 4 and Reform rabbi Gilad Karib also slammed the video and said that, "I and most of the public will agree that harmless animals wearing tasteless costumes are much preferable to crooks without courtesy and morals."
Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah, a liberal Orthodox group, also slammed the campaign clip. “Another red line was crossed today in relation to our brothers, who represent millions of Jews around the world,” it said in a statement.
“As an Orthodox movement, we are very concerned. When ignorance and polarizing discourse work together, we reach a nadir of fraternal hatred.
"Instead of learning a lesson from the recent High Court ruling, which came after more than 15 years, in which the legislature refrained from reaching an agreement, and realizing that the only way to resolve disputes over religion and state is dialogue – United Torah Judaism continues its separatist, extremist and divisive line."